I am in love with a voice. I sit here at my workstation, exhibiting bad posture as I stare dreamily at the ceiling tiles, listening to this voice. No, not voices in my head, not like that anyway. A voice in my headset. Just one of many calls I will share with him this week as this project intensifies.
“I understand that you think this is what you want and you believe this to be the best solution. However, let’s back up a bit and look at what this means.”
A quiet voice pulled back the focus of the meeting.
Go, Kellan! I think to myself. Bless you for putting the brakes on this hare-brained scheme before it gets too far off the ground. Kellan Tierney. The object of my affection. The name that belongs to this disembodied voice. Kellan is a project manager who doesn’t seem to speak solely to hear the sound of his own voice. Which means when he talks, people tend to listen. He and I both are representing technical teams that will get the work done for the business unit sponsoring this project. Kellan is based out of Richmond, VA and I am based out of Charlotte, NC. We have talked to each other almost every day for the past three weeks, after these mass conference calls. Off the conference calls, he has proven himself to have a very dry sense of humor and he can make me laugh in an instant. I have a picture of him in my head: tall, thin, and dark-haired. I expect that he is cute, but I am not naive enough to think he won’t be at least a little bit geeky. He is too smart not to be and an IT development project manager besides.
I realize that I have drifted off, listening to the sound of Kellan’s voice and not his words as he is enumerating the pros and cons he sees with the latest idea. The lead project manager who is supposed to be pulling all the teams together to complete this mammoth project has allowed the business unit gets just a little out of hand, increasing scope and waffling on requirements. Kellan somehow manages to pull us back on course most meetings. His group will be coding the backbone for the project. If he doesn’t have what he needs, nothing will happen. And he has said exactly that more than once.
I force myself to focus on the proceedings and sit up straight. Kellan has finished speaking and the business unit is responding to his comments, grudgingly admitting that he is right. The cons outweigh the pros. He is silent. He must be taking the call from his desk like I am. The business unit is there in Richmond with him, but in a different building. We tend to keep the development teams isolated from the rest of the world. Devs and engineers aren’t known for their social skills.
The “new mail” icon pops up in my sys tray and I toggle over to my inbox. My eyes widen. Mail from my manager with “CL Workflow Richmond Travel “ as the subject line.
I scroll through it quickly. I am going to Richmond next week. To work with Kellan for a week. I humiliate myself by squealing with delight. Fortunately, my area is relatively empty at the moment and my two coworkers present learned a long time ago that I talk to my PC, so they ignore me. My headset is on mute, so the members of the conference call don’t hear me, either.
I send a quick “Yes, I would be delighted to go” response to my boss and return my attentions to the call.
The lead project manager is wrapping up the meeting. We have already gone 7 minutes over the allotted time. I didn’t have a meeting scheduled behind this one, so the overage wasn’t a huge problem for me. What I have to do now is take my notes from the meeting and pull out anything that will affect my requirements. With Kellan’s squashing of the new direction, there should be nothing to change where I am headed. My phone rings almost immediately after the call ends and I know from the display it is my manager.
“Hi Heather. Ready to spend a week in Richmond straightening out the mess Melissa Greene has made with the CL project?”
Now I was confused. “What?”
“Melissa has been moved off the project. You and Kellan Tierney are taking it over.”
Jack’s voice had none of the usual teasing. Apparently, something big had gone down.
“Taking it over?”
“The business unit has asked to remove Melissa and has asked for you and Kellan Tierney to manage your pieces and hers.”
“Wow. I didn’t know that could happen.”
“Now you do. It is rare, but if the business unit doesn’t feel they are getting what they need, it can happen. You have impressed them. As has Kellan.”
“I haven’t said much. I have followed Kellan’s lead. We seem to agree on most aspects of this project.”
“Agreeing with Kellan and following his lead will almost never lead you astray. He is very good at what he does.”
“I have gathered that.”
“It doesn’t take long to figure it out. I have had the opportunity to work with him on quite a few projects over the years. I have never convinced him to join my team, though. Maybe you can.” Jack chuckled.
“Is that my secondary objective?” I smiled.
“I wouldn’t set you up for failure.”
“Good to know.”
“After you get your travel arrangements and hotel reservations, call Kellan to work out when and where to meet. You two will be spending your time with the business unit, understanding everything they do, not just the pieces that relate to your areas.”
We hung up the phone and I logged on to the corporate travel website to make my reservations. A week in Richmond with Kellan Tierney. A dream come true?
He answered on the second ring, not his usual pleasant self.
“Hi Kellan, it’s Heather Whitlow.”
“Hi, Heather, can I call you back in about 10 minutes?”
He hung up quickly and I looked at the phone in my hand for a second. He had never been that terse with me. Must be having a bad day.
True to his word, he called back in about 10 minutes. He knew why I was calling before I had the chance to tell him.
“So you are coming to Richmond to help me get CL under control?”
I laughed. “That is my mission and I chose to accept it.”
“This phone call will self-destruct in 15 seconds.”
“I better talk fast, then.” I smiled. I knew he would get the reference. Geek, like I suspected.
“When does your plane come in?” he refocused the conversation, as was his way.
“I am not flying. I am driving up on Sunday. Shall I meet you at your office Monday morning?”
“Where are you staying and how familiar are you with Richmond?”
“I am staying at the Marriott in the River Canyon business park. My best friend lives in Richmond, so I am pretty familiar with parts of it.”
“Your best friend lives here?”
“Yes. She moved there after college.”
“Small world. The Marriott is right across from my building. I am usually at work by 8:00. Why don’t you come in at 8:30? Have the receptionist call me. I will have to sign you in.”
“Okay. Which building number?”
“Okay. I will see you at 8:30, Monday, then.”
“Yes, you will. But I will be talking to you again before then. We have another call in two hours.”
“Yes, I guess we do.” I opened my calendar. “This one should be interesting. It is Melissa’s call.”
“Our call now. I will take the lead.”
“I appreciate that.” I really did. I didn’t feel like he was stepping on my toes. He had been leading the calls anyway, even with Melissa present. This would not be a major change.
“Talk to you later, Heather.”
He explained the transition calmly and professionally on our 3:00 call. I wondered what it took to make him raise his voice. He seemed to get quieter rather than louder when tempers began to rise. He explained that I would be in Richmond next week and that he and I would be scheduling meetings with the various business teams. Everyone seemed receptive, although the news could have been perceived as bad. We weren’t exactly back to square one, but we were close. It was a short call and he called me afterward.
“Have you been through all of the documentation on the project site?”
“I thought it was an obvious question.” I could hear his smile. “Before we meet on Monday, could you please analyze Melissa’s project plan and revise it to meet what you see as our projected timelines? Changing leadership should actually help our timeline and I want to be sure we have it all documented. I am going through her requirements documents.”
“Divide and conquer.” I quipped. He could turn me into a vapid, cliché-spouting airhead. Ugh.
“It is going to take two brains to fix this mess.” He sounded tired. He was typing as he talked to me.
“Multi-tasking?” I teased.
“Trying to get out of here. I have to leave by 4:15.”
“Okay, I will go through the project plans. I think we have tomorrow off from calls.”
“We do. I am out tomorrow. Hold any questions until Monday.”
“Okay. Have a good weekend, Kellan.”
To be continued